Thursday, May 29, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Unity clinched, only announcement left: Badal

Ludhiana, May 28
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president and former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said unity between his party and the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra has been clinched and now only a formal announcement has to be made.

Talking to mediapersons after presiding over a party meeting in Alamgir gurdwara here this evening, Mr Badal said, “We (two parties) will contest the coming Panchayat elections together.” The polls are scheduled to be held on June 29.

Mr Badal said the united Akali party would be known as SAD, adding that “Mr Tohra has no objection to it.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Badal had met the former SGPC president for the second time in as many as days in a Patiala hospital where Mr Tohra is under treatment since Monday night after a cardiac setback.

Mr Badal said he would go alone to the Akal Takht on June five as Mr Tohra might not be able to go because of his ill-health. The two Akali stalwarts were invited by Jathedar Joginder Singh Vendanti of the supreme temporal of the Sikhs for consultation on unity between the two Akali factions.

Mr Badal said there was no logic of his being asked to do some service by the Jathedar because they (he and Mr Tohra) had only been invited for discussion and not summoned to face any punishment.

He said no talks were being held for broader Akali unity with leaders like Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Mr Kuldip Singh Wadala, Mr Mal Singh Ghuman or Mr Ravi Inder Singh nor did he want to comment on their activities.

He dismissed the talk of groupism in his party, asking which political party did not suffer from it. But he said internal bickering would be resolved and discipline maintained in the party, adding that Disciplinary Action Committee (DAC) would be reconstituted soon. Earlier chairman of SAD DAC, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, had been expelled from the party in aftermath of SGPC’s annual presidential elections in November, last year on the charge of switching loyalty to Mr Tohra.

Earlier, addressing the party workers, Mr Badal hoped that change in the procedure for the June 29 panchayat elections could be helpful in thwarting government’s pressure on returning officers to some extent unlike the past when, he alleged, that the Amarinder government blatantly resorted to high-handedness to rig elections in its favour.

The SAD president said the party has acquired a 12,000 square yard plot in Chandigarh for building the party office, adding former Ministers, MLAS and ex-MLAs had been asked to contribute Rs one lakh, Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 each respectively. The SAD Youth Wing has been asked to contribute Rs five lakh ,while SGPC members would donate Rs 5,000 for it, he said. UNI


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